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Library: Sacred Texts

The Rosary of Views, the Upadesa of Mahacarya Sri Padmasambhava

This is a brief recollective outline consisting of an analysis of Views (dristi) and Ways (yana). Homage to the Bhagavat Manjusrikumara and to Vajradharma!

As to the variety of mundane Views held by innumerable sentient beings, they are:

  1. That of vulgar worldlings
  2. That of Materialists (lokayata) [= nihilists]
  3. That of Nihilists (maryada) [= atheists]
  4. That of Animists (tirthika)[= eternalists/deists]

The vulgar worldlings are those who, out of brute ignorance, do not know and do not care that all phenomena (dharmas) are linked in a chain of cause and effect. The Materialists are those who do not believe that their life has an antecedent or a future. They depend alone on the sophistry of worldly knowledge to acquire wealth and power for the sake of their present life time. The Nihilists are those who believe that all phenomena are without cause or effect. In their View, all phenomena have come into being by random accident. The Animists are those who believe that there is an absolute Entity (atman) in charge of all phenomena. These latter can be categorized [under three subheads] as:

  1. The View [of the Samkhya school] that there is no cause, but there is a result.
  2. The View [of the Deist (Isvaravada) school] that cause and result is predestined.
  3. The View [of the Jain school] that there is cause, but no result.

All of these views are based on ignorance.

As to supramundane Views, there are two categories:

  1. The Analytical Way (lakshana-yana)
  2. The Diamond Way (vajra-yana)

[The Analytical Way consists of]: (i) Sravakayana, (ii) Pratyakabuddhayana, (iii) Bodhisattvayana.

(i) According to the View of one who has entered the way of the Disciple (sravaka), both the position that all phenomena lack a 'Self' (atma) as their cause, and the Animist's position that they derive from an absolute Entity, is like mistaking a rope for a snake. The skandhas, dhatu, ayatana, etc., the four forces and sub-atomic particles (paramanu) of matter, along with conscious perception (vijnana), are seen as fundamental absolutes (paramarthas). By means of graded meditation based on the four Holy Truths, the four Fruits [of the spiritual Path] are attained.

(ii) According to the View of one who has entered the way of the Eremitical Sage (pratyekabuddha), the position is similar to the Disciple concerning animism, but differs in having a one-sided understanding of non-entity as the relativity [i.e., Impermanence] of phenomena, of rupa-skandha, etc. One who attains realization based on this View does not arrive at the goal through reliance on a Teacher (kalyana-mitra, spiritual friend). From the power of his previous work [on the Path], he comes to a realization of the meaning of the profound Ultimate Reality (dharmata) through [insight into] the twelve-fold causal chain [of relative co-arising]. Thus for himself alone he attains the Fruit.

(iii) According to the View of those who enter the way of the Bodhisattva, all the phenomena (sarvadharma) of Samsara and Nirvana have no 'own-being' (svabhava) in reality. It is only as Relative Truth that the phenomena exist; their 'own-being' is an illusion. Through practicing the ten transcendentals (paramita), a Bodhisattva traverses the ten degrees (bhumi) of Awakening one by one and then attains Buddhahood.

The Diamond Way is threefold: (i) Kriya-tantra, (ii) Ubhaya-tantra, (iii) Yoga-tantra.

(i) The View of those who have entered the way of Kriya-tantra is: Although in terms of Absolute Truth there exists neither arising nor substantiality, from their perspective of Relative Truth they visualize an iconographical symbol of God (devata), having an imagined form and mind. They recite the Divinity's mantra and observe rules of purity and ritual worship according to certain specific days and dates. Such a worshipper, [not knowing any better], endeavors to attain the goal [of the spiritual Path] through various outer rules and ritual.

(ii) The View of those who have entered the way of Ubhaya-tantra is: Although in terms of Absolute Truth there exists neither arising nor substantiality, from their perspective of Relative Truth they too visualize the form and presence of God. To accomplish their goal they practice the mystical contemplation (samadhi) which consists of uniting the four aspects [i.e., worshipper, God, heart-syllable, and mantra recitation]. They likewise rely on exoteric rules and ritual.

(iii) The View of those who have entered the way of Yoga-tantra is twofold: (a) the way of exoteric Yoga-tantra and (b) the way of exoteric Yoga-tantra.

(a) The View of those who have entered the way of Exoteric Yoga: they see that the Absolute, as God (deva) and Goddess (devi), is devoid of origination and substantiality, but they still feel that exoteric ritual items are necessary. Therefore they meditate on the embodiments of God through a supremely pure contemplation (samadhi) based on the four seals [i.e., Samaya-mudra, Dharma-mudra, Karma-mudra and Maha-mudra]. Through the practice of this mystical union (yoga) they hope to attain the goal.

(b) The View of those who have entered the way of esoteric Yoga-Tantra [i.e., Yoganiruttaratantra, Supreme Yoga Tantra] is threefold:

(b1) The praxis of the Creation-process.
(b2) The praxis of the Completion-process.
(b3) The praxis of Absolute Totality.

(b1) As concerns the Creation-process praxis, the practitioner (sadhaka) develops the three samadhis one by one, and then visualizes the creation of the pleroma (mandala). Through this means of meditation, he attains the goal.

(b2) As concerns the Completion-process praxis, the practitioner recognizes the absolute truth that the Absolute, as God and Goddess, is ever uncreate and non-substantial. Therefore not forming any concept-construction (nirvikulpa) he remains firmly centered in the Dimension of Reality (dharmadhatu). From the relative position, however, he meditates on the ikon of the Divine as a single unicity (samata, sameness), through clarity [of visualization], purity [of translucent form], and personal identification.

(b3) As for the View of Absolute Totality (mahasamdhi), the initiate recognizes that between the mundane and the transcendental there is no duality. Therefore he holds that from the very beginning the two have always existed as the single pleroma (mandala) of the Body-Speech-Mind (kayo-vac-citta) [of the Absolute (buddha)].

The [Guhyagarbha] Tantra says:

As for the aspects of the vajraskandha, They are known as the Five Tathagata. Senses, perception, and so forth,
Are manifestations of the mandala of Bodhisattvas.
Earth is Locana, water is Mamaki,
Fire is Panduravasini, Air is Tara,
And Space is Dhatvisvari.
The threefold Cosmos is pure from the beginning.

All the phenomena of Samsara and Nirvana are without origination, yet possess the capacity for the illusion (maya) of Creation, and in that sense may be said to always be manifestations of the five male and five female Tathagatas. All phenomena in their essence possess the nature of Nirvana. The five elemental-forces (mahabhuta) have the nature of the five Mothers. The five complexes (skandha) have the nature of the five lineage Buddhas. The four variants of perception (vijnana) have the nature of the four male Bodhisattvas. The four objects-of-perception (visaya) are the four female Bodhisattvas. The four sense-faculties (indriya) have the nature of the four male Bodhisattvas. The four times (kala) have the nature of the four female Bodhisattvas.

The mark (linga), perception and its object, and the generation of bodhicitta—these are manifestations of the four male guardians. The four views rooted in eternalism and nihilism are manifestations of the four female guardians. The gnostic Mind (manojnana) [or Bodhicitta, 'Enlightened-mind'] is the same as Samantabhadra, the Creator. The object of mind, all the conditioned and unconditioned phenomena (dharmas), are the same as Samantabhadri, the Creation.

As the whole [of the pleroma (mandala) and the universe itself) is of the nature of Enlightenment, there is nothing to acquire from following a Path. The ten directions of space, the three periods of time, etc., all the dharmas both conditioned (samskrita) and unconditioned (asamskrita) are nothing but one's own mind.

Thus it is said:

Realization of one's own mind is knowing it to be the Enlightenment of the Buddha; knowing it to be the whole threefold Universe; knowing it to be all the elements of existence!

And likewise it is said:

All the dharmas abide in mind. Mind abides in space (akasa). Space abides no where!1

and furthermore:

All the dharmas are empty of essence
They are primordially pure
They are utterly luminescent (prabhavara, clear light)
In their own-nature they are entirely quiescent.
From the beginning they are the complete Absolute.
Such is the Absolute Totality!

As for the application of the Absolute Totality (mahasamdhi)  praxis, the practitioner comes to a state of realization by means of the four ways of recognition. The definition of the term "praxis of Absolute Totality" is the completion [or totality] in spontaneity of the two accumulations of goodness (punyam): the punyam of charitable work and the punyam of spiritual work. The four ways of recognition are:

  1. The recognition of the one cause
  2. The recognition of the mode of syllables
  3. The recognition of spiritual grace
  4. The direct recognition

As for the first, the whole of existence in terms of Absolute Truth has neither origination nor any separate entities, even though relatively its virtual reality [or illusionary nature], which also is without origination or entities as such, is merely like seeing various reflections in pools of water from one original moon-thus, the one cause. The illusion itself is empty of own-nature (svabhava) and has no origination, even though it appears. Since it is not possible to make a division of entities in terms of Absolute Truth and Relative Truth, therefore one realizes only one cause.

As for the second, there has never been an origination of anything, and when this is symbolized in terms of alphabetical letters, this is represented by the syllable "AH" standing for [Buddha's] Speech. That which has no origination, yet as a virtual reality actually appears, with the capacity for causal activity, is represented by the syllable '"OM" standing for [Buddha's] Body. The apperception of the illusory nature which is just all-encompassing Gnosis (jnana), is represented by the syllable "HUM" standing for [Buddha's] Mind.

As for the third, just as madder has the capacity for dying white cloth red, so too the spiritual grace (adhisthana) capable of transmuting all dharmas into the sphere of Enlightenment is something that comes through the realization of the one cause and the realization of the syllables.

As for the fourth, the recognition that all the dharmas have always been from the beginning not other than the Absolute (buddha), is direct realization. Although to realize this one does not rely on either scripture (sutra) or precept (upadesa), nevertheless this realization is not contradictory to either. One realizes directly through one's own mind by relying on utter faith.

As for this faith, reliance on the four ways of recognition is the Path of Faith of the yogi. However, this is not a practice in which one seeks an attainment in some future time based on stages of development. This is a direct realization through Faith. Success as a result of this is characterized as follows:

  1. Grasping the View of the four modes of realization has the characteristic of Insight.
  2. Immersion has the characteristic of proceeding on the path of Meditation.
  3. Liberation through the power of the meditation has the characteristic of the Fruit.

These three characteristics point out the sequence, the focus, and the final focus.

As for the sequence, it is the understanding that all dharmas constituting Samsara and Nirvana have always been the sphere of the Body-Speech-Mind of the Absolute-nature. Recognition through spiritual grace signifies insight into the non-causal, which in turn leads to the accomplishment of Buddhahood. That is the sequence.

As for the focus, the dharmas constituting Samsara and Nirvana are given tantric signification (for example, the five medicines, the five amritas, etc.) in which they are defined as one great sameness (maha-samata) in Enlightenment. To adopt such an attitude, in which nothing is preferred to anything else, is the characteristic of the Meditation. This is the focus, since it is the cause of attaining Buddhahood.

As for the final focus, it is to realize that all the dharmas are spontaneous from the very beginning. There is nothing to be accepted nor rejected. To recognize that Samsara is totally the nature of the Absolute (buddha) and take it as existing spontaneously as Nirvana, is the characteristic of the Fruit. The realization of the state of the Ornamental Wheel [i.e., the full pleroma] of the unbounded Buddha Body-Speech-Mind is the final focus.

To achieve spontaneity, the practitioner strives to practice the four mystical unions (yogas):

  1. Reliance
  2. Nearer Reliance
  3. Accomplishment
  4. Great Accomplishment

As for Reliance, it means to "recognize Enlightened mind", and this is the recognition that all the dharmas of Samsara and Nirvana from the very beginning are of the nature of the Absolute (buddha), and therefore there is neither something that needs to undergo transformation nor is there anything to be attained by following a Path.

As for Nearer Reliance, it means knowing that one's own self is Divinity (devata). Just as all the dharmas are of the nature of the Absolute from the very beginning, so one's own self is of the nature of God (deva). Likewise, this means realizing that striving to acquire deification is not the point [because it has always been an attribute of oneself].

As for Accomplishment (siddhi), it is the embodiment of the Great Mother of the Dimension of Space (Akasa-dhatvisvari) [i.e., Wisdom (prajna)]. The Great Mother of Space appears as the four elements, Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The practitioner should realize that it is She alone Who has been active as Creation from the beginning.

As for Great Accomplishment, it is the conjoining of Means (upaya) and Wisdom (prajna). This consists of the resolution of opposites (yuganaddha): the five Great Mothers, whose "womb" is absolute Emptiness (sunyata), with the five Buddhas (of the five skandhas), producing Bodhicitta which is, as it were, their offspring. This union in Buddhahood is a display wherein Illusion plays (lila) an illusion, where one experiences bliss (sukkha) flowing as apparitional Supreme Bliss, devoid of any characteristics - a union which is innate (sahaja). Herein the four maras ere subdued end the ultimate Liberation is accomplished.

All the dharmas are pure from the very beginning, and constitute a mentally-conceived Temple which is encircled by an immeasurable circumference [or "wheel"]. This is the supreme pleroma (mandala), self-existent from the very beginning. Hearing the teaching of the way of Means (upaya-yana) corresponds to uncovering one's eyes. Understanding the teaching corresponds to seeing the mandala. Putting into practice the understanding of that teaching is to enter the mandala. The greet realization attained [as e result of that teaching] is to dwell as the perceiver in the center of the mandala. This latter state is the same as the stage of Absolute Totality (mahasamdhi). It means that one spontaneously arrives at effortless union, the supreme level of accumulation, [known as] the "Wheel of Syllables".

This doctrine is only for the most intelligent adepts who are able to grasp the significance of "Enlightenment-from-the-beginning", and who are able to embark on the Path 'with one leap.' It is not a teaching for the ordinary person. Even though an ordinary person hears and ponders a teaching such as this, he will not possess the faith needed to attain the Truth. On the contrary, because of his lack of prior insight, this doctrine will only cause him confusion or raise doubts. He may either think, "Every teaching is like this!" or else despise the teacher, saying, "This is not at all true!" So as to avoid such a person forming a critical attitude against this profound doctrine, this is kept secret and is only taught as a Secret Way (guhya-yana).

Therefore, until such time as the understanding of the seeker, concerning the innate Enlightenment of all phenomena, has sufficiently matured, the Teacher should teach according to the Lower Ways, so that the teaching does not become spoiled. The Teacher should teach [his disciples] concerning the faults of Samsara end the perfection of Nirvana. He should thus be learned in ell the ways (yanas) end teach accordingly. It is strongly advised that one whose vision is partial [i.e., limited only to the highest View] should not hold the position of a teacher.

Finally, a distinction between the Views may also be made according to how e person performs conscious exertion. The vulgar worldling end the nihilist in general do not perform conscious exertion. There are four types of persons who do take up the practice of conscious exertion: the Materialist end the Animist who are drawn to mundane asceticism, the Disciple and the Bodhisattva who are drawn to pure spiritual asceticism.

The vulgar worldly does not practice conscious exertion because he does not believe in cause end effect. The Nihilist has no respect for conscious exertion because he sees everything as ultimately futile. The Materialist practices conscious exertion for the hygienic benefit of the body to acquire certain qualities in the present lifetime. The Animist who believes in a supreme Entity (atman) and so as to attain purification, practices asceticism such as torturing his body with the five fires, etc. As for the Disciple, he follows the [asceticism of the] Vinaya, which says:

No sin is to be committed,
Virtue is to be developed,
One's mind is to be subdued.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

In the latter's view, all the dharmas, whether wholesome or unwholesome, exist independently, and pertain to either Relative Truth or Absolute Truth. Therefore he perseveres in developing virtue and suppressing vice. As to the conscious exertion of the Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva-samvara says:

Not making concessions under pressure,
Not exhibiting miraculous powers, etc.,
There is no fault in actions done out of love,
And when in a virtuous frame of mind.

But as for supreme conscious exertion, the Maha-samaya-sutra says:

The supreme Buddha-way is this:
Even though one indulges in the five passions,
The covenant remains always intact,
Just like a lotus blossoming in mud.

Since all the dharmas have remained in the state of unicity (samata, sameness) from the very beginning, there is no love to be sought and no hate to be avoided. At the same time, this does not mean that those who realize this way do not have love, for to the degree that they recognize that all the dharmas are pure from the beginning, to that degree they correctly practice this discipline.

This secret Rosary of Views,
may a good person connect with it;
one who is endowed with intelligence and skill,
in the manner of a blind man whose eyes are healed!
Here ends the Upadesa, entitled Rosary of Views, composed
by Mahacarya Padmasambhava. Mangalam.


A great debt is owed to an earlier translation of this text by the Tibetan scholar Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, for which see The Great Perfection, Brill, Leiden 1988. Karmay states that this Rosary of Views is the only known historical work which exists from the hand of the Acarya Padmasambhava. It is therefore of great importance as the sole authoritative document revealing his genuine Mahasamdhi-yogacara tradition. All other texts attributed to Padmasambhava have, says Karmay, been composed several centuries after his time. The above translation was completed by Dharma Fellowship, in June, 1996.


1Quoted from the Guhyasamajatantra, a fact significant in the dating of this tantra.

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